When you're out to dinner, does your BlackBerry occupy a seat at the table? Does your spouse
ever check email before saying
'good morning' to the kids? Does your son sleep with his laptop?
It may be time for a technology cleanse
Like an extreme
diet that cuts out all processed foods for a short period of time with the promise of lasting
good health, a technology cleanse
means you unplug for a short time with longer-term benefits for your relationship
But be warned: As with any other diet, it isn't easy.
Diane Broadnax, a 50-year-old clinical trial researcher from Mount Airy, Md., recently became fed up with the way her family dispersed to separate computer
s each evening. Anika, 4, would watch 'Dora the Explorer' on a laptop in the kitchen, while Jasmine, 12, would play with her virtual pets online. Ms. Broadnax's husband, Lonnie Broadnax, 50, went to his home office to watch a sci-fi DVD, and she would make dinner -- while checking her email. Many nights, each person would eat in front of his or her respectivescreen
. 'Days were going by and we weren't talking,' Ms. Broadnax says.
黛安•布罗德奈克斯(Diane Broadnax)今年50岁，是马里兰州芒特艾里市(Mount Airy)的一位临床试验研究人员。最近，她厌倦于家人一到晚上就各自去玩电脑的生活方式：四岁的阿尼卡(Anika)在厨房一个笔记本电脑上看动画片《爱探险的朵拉》(Dora the Explorer)，12岁的加斯敏(Jasmine)玩网上的虚拟宠物游戏，她50岁的丈夫罗尼•布罗德奈克斯(Lonnie Broadnax)去他在家的办公室看科幻电影DVD，而她则给大家准备晚餐--同时查收电子邮件
So one evening last November, she gave her family some news. For one week, they would forgo all computer
-- personal email, texting, Facebook, DVDs and online videos (they don't have a regular TV). Computers and devices would be used only for work and homework. Horrified, her 12-year-old said it was no different than being grounded.
Ms. Broadnax persevered: The next night she made her family's favorite dinner (chicken and rice) and set the table with candles. But when everyone
sat down to eat, the conversation was stilted. The girls gave one-word answers to their parents' questions. Even the adults felt ill at ease.
'I didn't know what to say, so some stuff came out really awkward,' Jasmine recalls. 'We all thought, 'We are sitting at the table like we're supposed
to, but now what do we do?' ' Mr. Broadnax, a Web designer
, says. The meal was so uncomfortable
that the family skipped the molten
chocolate cake Ms. Broadnax made for dessert
. Afterward, Mr. Broadnax read a book. Jasmine went to her room. Anika played with toys in the kitchen while her mom cleaned up and made a few work phone calls.
For all our constant
connectivity, our electronic devices often keep us apart. Texting causes misunderstandings. Facebook makes us jealous
. Television makes us too lazy or tired or distracted for sex. (Don't believe me? A few years ago, an Italian study showed that couples who have a TV in the bedroom have sex half as often as those who do not.)
Some therapists prescribe
s for clients. Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, a Mount Kisco, N.Y., marriage and family therapist, says technology is a distraction from family -- and hard to resist
because it's portable
and provides instantgratification
. It's also an easy escape if we're having trouble in a relationship
. 'Technology should be on the list of the top reasons why people divorce
, along with money, sex and parenting,' she says. She has seen couples who communicate
almost entirely through text, email and phone messages. 'There has to be some time in the week when you are all together and you shut off the technology,' she says.
有些治疗师也建议客户进行科技大扫除。纽约州芒特基斯科市(Mount Kisco)的雪伦•奥尼尔(Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill)是一位婚姻及家庭关系治疗师，她说科技会影响家庭的凝聚力--但又难以抗拒，因为其携带方便，而且能提供即时的满足感。如果家庭关系遇到麻烦，电子产品也是很好的慰藉手段。雪伦说，科技跟金钱、性生活和子女抚养一样，应该是离婚的主要原因之一。她见过一些夫妻几乎只通过文字聊天、电子邮件
Last year, a group of Jewish artists and media professionals created the Sabbath Manifesto, a list of 10 principles to be followed one day a week in order to unwind. High on the list: 'Avoid Technology.' The group has declared a National Day of Unplugging, from sundown
on Friday, March 4, until sundown
on Saturday, March 5. Even the Dunphys, on hit TV sitcom 'Modern Family,' tried to go a week tech-free.
2010年，一群犹太艺术家和媒体专业人士发布了一份"安息日宣言"(Sabbath Manifesto)，列出每周有一天应该遵守的十大减压原则。名列榜首的就是：避免科技产品。该组织在热播电视情景剧《摩登家庭》(Modern Family)中宣导一个"全美断网断电日"(National Day of Unplugging)，提议从2011年3月4日周五日落开始，到3月5日周六日落结束，过一个完全没有科技产品的24小时。
In 'The Winter of Our Disconnect,' a book coming out later this month, author Susan Maushart describes the technology fast she undertook
with her three teenagers. Ms. Maushart says she was so attached to her iPhone that she slept with it under her pillow and started buying it 'little outfits and jewelry.' Her then-15-year-old son was addicted to videogames, and her 14- and 18-year-old daughters were consumed by social media.
在即将于2011年1月出版的《离线的冬季》(The Winter of Our Disconnect)一书中，作者苏珊•莫沙特(Susan Maushart)描述了她与三个十几岁的儿女一起经历的科技斋戒生活。苏珊说，她对iPhone如此迷恋，以至于睡觉都要把它放在枕头底下，并开始给它买"小小的外套和镶嵌的珠宝"。她当时15岁的儿子玩电子游戏很上瘾，14岁和18岁的两个女儿则着迷于社交网站。
'It got to the point where we would inhabit
the same room, but we weren't connecting,' says Ms. Maushart, 52, of Mattituck, N.Y.
For six months while living in Australia in 2009, she and her children unplugged everything with a screen
. For entertainment
, they went to the movies, ate family meals, played board games and read the newspaper on Saturday mornings. Her son rediscovered his saxophone. Her daughters began cooking and wrote a novel together.
To ensure her kids' participation
, Ms. Maushart promised each a portion
of her book proceeds. Her 14-year-old tired of the technology freeze
and moved in with her father for six weeks (she eventually
moved back). The trial was worth it. 'We appreciate
each other more,' says Ms. Maushart.
Interested in a tech cleanse
? Here are some tips from people who have learned
Give your family advance warning
. They need time to prepare mentally.
Clarify your goal: Be careful not to swap technology use for some other isolating activity.
Wean yourself off gadgets gradually. Maybe a week -- or even just one day -- is too long to go unconnected at first.
Start when your kids are young. Rob and Lauren Webster tried a tech fast last year after realizing how often they plopped their kids, ages 1 and 2, in front of cartoons to keep them quiet. 'I really don't want to screw up my kids,' says Mr. Webster, 39, director
of video production at a church in Leawood, Kan. When they unplugged and took the children to the park, 'we found ourselves constant
ly engaged with our kids and with each other,' he says.
4. 要从娃娃抓起。罗伯•韦伯斯特(Rob Webster)和罗兰•韦伯斯特(Lauren Webster)夫妇去年意识到自己过于频繁地把一岁和两岁的两个孩子放到电视前面看卡通片，让他们保持安静，于是尝试避免使用科技产品。39岁的罗伯在堪萨斯州黎雾市(Leawood)一家教堂担任视频制作主管。他说，我真的不想让孩子们误入歧途。他们离开科技产品，带孩子们去公园玩。罗伯说，我们发现这样能经常跟孩子们保持沟通和接触。
Be clear on the rules. Will calls and emails for work be allowed? What about going online for homework? What are the consequences for cheating?
Let technology help you disconnect. Use Facebook, Twitter or email to tell friends and family that you will be offline. Have emails sent to your inbox in batches.
Make the bedroom a media-free zone.
When the cleanse
is done, learn to avoid the time-suck of letting one Internet search lead to another and another. You can waste hours.
Allow only one screen
at a time. Give the TV, for example, your full attention, rather than also looking at your computer
The Broadnax family extended
their tech cleanse
for five days. Then one evening, Ms. Broadnax came home from work and found her husband and two daughters playing a trivia game, moving pieces around a game board and reading
questions off the computerscreen
. All three were laughing. 'Here was an almost perfect solution,' says Ms. Broadnax. 'It was family interaction with technology. The screen
was there, but it wasn't the focal point.'